Being a parent today is not easy (but is it ever?!). Technology has changed our lives for the better, but it has also added another dimension of parenting. Kids grow up with today with iPads as entertainment and cell phones often the only phones in the home. Usually by third or fourth grade, most kids are already asking for cell phones if they don’t have them already. The question is, is your child ready for one?
Cell phones are like wallets – you cannot lose them. If you do (or if they break), it causes a major headache. But as cell phones became mainstream the last decade, it also became the norm that kids have them. When my daughter entered 6th grade, she asked for a phone. Classmates had phones as early as 4th grade, and she was in the minority without a cell phone. I just couldn’t decide if she actually even needed a cell phone, but I also had to consider the following:
Is my child ready to handle the responsibility?
With the majority of cell phones being expensive smart phones, it’s a difficult question. When I was a kid, the most expensive thing I ever carried around was a Walkman. It’s hard enough being an adult and bearing the responsibility of carrying around a $250 phone that can shatter and break if it’s dropped. Is your child mature enough to understand the value of the phone and the responsibilities that come with it? Will they help make the service payments by doing chores around the house?
Does my child really need a cell phone?
So many young kids today have phones. Granted, most of them come from a family where both parents work. It’s essential to be able to be in contact with your kids if you can’t be home when they’re home. My kids were lucky because I was home with them. They didn’t need a cell phone because I walked to school and picked them up after. Especially if there is no house phone, you can understand why a child alone might need their own.
How important is it to my child to have a phone?
As expensive as they are, it’s understandable to wait on buying your child a phone. However, you don’t want your son or daughter to be the last to have a phone either. Not having a cell phone nowadays can almost hamper one’s social interaction. Between texting, Instagram, Facebook, etc., kids are interacting online. Less and less interaction outside of school is done in person (something I have a big problem with). Gone are the days of laying on your bed, being up late, talking on the phone. Now, kids are up late texting and typing. Will it hold back your child socially if they don’t have a phone? Can they communicate with friends in person instead?
What can my child learn by having a cell phone?
Kids need to learn phone etiquette. For a long time it seemed like my eldest daughter didn’t have a clue as to what to say during a phone call. Every interaction she had with friends was through text; she was rarely talking on the phone. At some point, I started forcing her to call me instead of text, to learn phone manners. Also, children need to be taught proper etiquette in terms of asking permission before taking photos and what is appropriate to post on social media.
Overall, these are the pros and cons to having a cell phone that I was able to list:
- You are able to keep in touch with your children
- It allows kids to be social with others and encourages more interaction with people
- It teaches them responsibility
- It’s convenient, especially if your kids are very involved and need pick ups after school
- It’s an important tool if there is a crisis at school or if your children are in a concerning situation
- It offers children more independence
- Children learn to be overly dependent on technology
- Cell phones are expensive and the potential for loss and breakage is high
- If kids text too much, they won’t learn phone etiquette
- Technology can facilitate bullying, as kids have a public forum to be heard
- Kids have more access to the internet and possibly bullies and predators
- Children may develop entitlement issues by getting everything they ask for
Parents have to weigh the pros and cons of their individual situations before deciding if the time is right for their child.
In order to have some control of my kids’ ability to purchase any apps or music, we still have our apple ID tied to their phones. This way they need our username/password (which they don’t know), which forces them to ask us before downloading. Also, until they can pay for the phone and the service, it’s technically my phone. My girls understand that I can ask to see their phones at any time. I also know both of their passcodes to unlock their phones. Phones are charged in the kitchen at night so no one is up late on their phones.
iPhones and iPads do have parental controls that you can enable. A good resource can be found here. Since my children are older and can work their way around cell phone settings and controls, I opted to simply talk to the kids about inappropriate websites, taking appropriate photos, and internet safety. If they understand the rules and requirements for having this kind of responsibility, they should be able to understand the consequences if they fail to follow these rules.
How did you handle cell phones with your kids? Let me know in the comments!